‘Don’t grow a beard,’ counselled 80s synth-pop legends, Men Without Hats, ‘They’ll call you a Hippie.’ Well it’s going to take a lot more than shaving to remove that label from Cincinnati world music outfit, Aradhna. For a start, there’s the ‘world music’ thing, a genre that, to some people, will always evoke didgeridoos and B.O.
Then there’s the long hair, the sitars, the peace and love, the traces of eastern mysticism and the flowing, Indian cotton clothing. Oh, yeah, and they sing in Hindi. Their CD is only available online through a goat supply website (I really wish I was making this up). What I’m trying to say is that these guys are not exactly Motorhead. And praise Jesus for that.
Aradhna (meaning ‘adoration’ or ‘worship’ in Hindi) are unique. Play their album without explanation in your average Baptist church, and you’re likely to get a few funny looks, if not groups being organised to pray against it. That’s because Aradhna sound very Indian, and not in a Bollywood sort of way. No stereotypes of dancing elephants and thousand-strong choruses here. This is authentic India, ancient India, distilled by a couple of white boys (of all people) and put on a CD. The songs on Amrit Vani (which means Immortal Word) are bhajans, and while most bhajans have traditionally been Hindu, Aradhna’s, in the words of a review in The Hindu (India’s national newspaper), ‘sing the praise of Jesus Christ’.
And that they do. From traditional Hindu songs of the Bhakti tradition, adapted for Christian devotion, to songs written by Christian sadus or holy men, followers of Yeshu Raja, King Jesus, who never adopted western Christianity but for centuries worshipped, taught about and wrote worship songs to Jesus, the Son of God, long before modern missiology caught up.
Aradhna have helpfully translated every word, and this is clearly Christian music. Not just spiritual, not new age, but heartfelt worship of Jesus Christ, the like of which we have not seen in a long time. Sitar, tabla drums, acoustic guitar and backing choirs greet the listener on Jaya Dev, a sublime piece of worship, that floats effortlessly beyond terms like ‘world music’ or ‘cross-cultural’ and settles in the area occupied by the great songs that stay with you for life. It’s chorus of ‘Jaya Deva, Narahari’ (‘Victory to God, the man God’) is preceded by lines so beautiful and profound one can only imagine their untranslated impact. Yeshu Raja talks of Jesus, ‘The God of the wretched and distressed,’ while the title track proclaims loudly: ‘Victory to Jesus’ (and the father, and the Spirit).
This may not be as close to your own philosophy or theology as Kendrick or Redman, but make no mistake, this is worship of Jesus, expressed as art, and it is beautiful, inherently spiritual, authentic and wonderful. Buy it.
Listen to the album here. I highly recommend Jaya Dev.